We always talk about others playing ball. Why not talk about ourselves? A very special welcome to Prof. Shaun Lopez, who's got some serious old-man game. Or so he claims, since he never showed up to our regular game in Seattle.
1. Do you (or did you) play basketball? Would you consider yourself to be a "baller"?
Joe Bernardo: I suppose. I've never played organized ball (at my school or in a league), but I've been playing pick up for longer than I can remember and continue to play 2-3 times per week. But when I say "Pick up", I don't mean playing on the courts of Rucker Park or Venice Beach. Nor do I mean at 10am or 5pm, when the "real ballers" show up. I usually play in random courts with 30-to-40-year-old, non-ex-athletes at 7 or 8 in the morning...when the "fake ballers" like me show up.
Shaun Lopez: For a period of ten years (undergrad and grad school) I played twice a week religiously. Haven't played in the last six years. A baller? Yes. A basketballer? No.
Kevin Draper: The only organized ball I ever played was in a YMCA league in 3rd grade. Home video evidence suggests that I could only dribble (poorly) with one hand, jumped off the wrong foot to shoot layups, and fancied myself an outside shooter. In other words, I was Nick Young.
Andrew Snyder: I played "organized" basketball up until 8th grade on the "B" squad travel team. Why would a then over 6' kid not be automatically placed on the A squad? Well, the starting center was later named the Gatorade Massachusetts HS player of the Year when I graduated in 2006. Where did he play his college ball? Harvard? UMass? Some random D-1 school you never heard of? Nope. Bates. D-III. That should tell you all you need to know about the state (no pun intended) of Massachusetts High School basketball. I also had the pleasure of playing for three years of middle school with a future D-1 starting center and now pro baller in Italy. I'd like to think that if I'd grown up in a small midwestern town instead of a large Boston suburb with a consistently great high school program, that I would have groomed from a young age as a 'tall kid' into a standout player. Obvious just a giant waste of potential. Could have been the next Bryant Reeves. My pickup basketball career evolved once I gained the necessary coordination around age 16 to consistently shoot a jumper in one direction -- at the rim, and over time, I've developed an all-around solid pickup game. As the only IM Basketball T-Shirt winner on this here blog, I could certifiably take each of you in a game of one-on-one, with a five point spread. (Editor's Note: I won an IM basketball champs shirt 3 years before Snyder even arrived at college).
John Reyes-Nguyen: I used to play basketball all the time until my back went out. I don't consider myself a baller, I don't roam from gym-to-gym with my homies and play pick up games. I'm usually that random dude you don't want to play with who has next.
Jacob Greenberg: I was as sort of a late bloomer with sports, and playing basketball was my first and fullest love. Save for YMCA ball from ages 13-15 and an aborted freshman HS team career (I was too chickenshit to play against real players) I didn't play a lot of organized ball. But I did play a lot of pickup in high school, college, and post-college. I also dabbled with IMs, and am toying with the idea of joining a league out here in the North Bay. My fondest memories are of me hoisting up shots on my portable hoop outside of my ticky-tacky house in my nondescript Northern California suburb. Good times.
2. Which player did you fancy yourself as? Why? Professional or otherwise.
Joe Bernardo: I usually play in the post. I'd like to say I play like Hakeen Olajuwon or Pau Gasol, but I don't. I have good post moves, but honestly my lack of handles and sheer laziness causes my play to emulate Elden Campbell with a 5-inch vertical. Ugh. How sad.
Shaun Lopez: Mark Price because of the quick trigger. To be obscure but honest, I have to say Fresno State's Bernard Thompson. Look it up, youngsters.
Kevin Draper: Reggie Miller. I was always smaller, partially because my most frequent opponents growing up were my two older brothers and my one friend that played football through high school, and wasn't terribly quick, so really the only thing I could do were chuck up prayers and yell "hibachi!"
Andrew Snyder: I like to think of myself as a Luis Scola/Jared Sullinger with old man moves (and no ups) in the post, a herky-jerky Paul Pierce with my lack of speed but (sometimes) ability to get where I want to on the court, and a streaky gunner with no hesitation but poor shot selection like Mike Beasley from 3-point range.
John Reyes-Nguyen: I'd like to fancy myself as the PG version of Arvydas Sabonis, super slow, lethargic, yet crafty.
Jacob Greenberg: When I was younger, I always wanted to play like Chuck. I was short, fat, and round, so the Round Mound was a natural role model. In retrospect, I like to think I played a lot like Filipino basketball great Noli Locsin, whose inside-outside game as a 6'2'' power forward never ceases to amaze. As I got older, taller, and just slightly leaner, I became more of a DeShawn Stevenson. That is to say: no real basketball skill, but can play passable defense on all five positions, and can occasionally hit a timely shot. On my best days, I can play a little like Raymond Felton.
3. What's your on-court persona? Pickup coach? Foul caller? Fattie wit' skills?
Joe Bernardo: I just like to fit in. I know I'm usually not the best on the court, but I try to scrap enough so as not to be the worst guy. Also, since I'm in the post, I like to feed teammates who cut to the basketball. Sharing the ball is essential.
Shaun Lopez: Sniper running off screens all day. Eventually you're gonna get tired of chasing and I will get a shot off...
Kevin Draper: I'm probably pretty annoying to play against. Since I'm not very good, I try to win by working harder than everybody else. I contest rebounds way more than anybody should in pickup. I try to push fast breaks whenever I can. I don't actually know how to cut so I just run around in circles on the court a la Rip Hamilton. I also talk an inordinate amount of shit.
Andrew Snyder: Unless I'm matched up against another tall dude, I usually try to play point forward and stay away from the post unless my team is clearly deficient in the "needs scoring or rebounding inside" department, because let's face it -- raining jumpers is way more fun than scoring on ugly old man post moves. However, if my team's in danger of losing, then it's time grab the hard hat and lunch pail and go to work in the paint.
John Reyes-Nguyen: I'm a pretty scrappy player. I usually pride myself on defense and boxing out. I'm also 5'5'' so boxing out was more like submarining someone. I once got yelled at for playing too hard. You don't want none of this.
Jacob Greenberg: As I got older, and realized I never, ever, was going to be able to dribble or shoot lefty, I started looking for my shot less. I try to shy away from the "I rebound decently and play foul-heavy defense because I basically suck at basketball" archetype, and craft more of a point-forward-pickup-leader persona. I try to focus on "winning plays" -- making the right pass early-and-often, going to the ball, setting solid screens, crashing the boards, hitting my jumpers when I'm open, and keeping things light but competitive. And my teams usually win games.
4. Do you prefer to watch or play basketball? Or other sports, really.
Joe Bernardo: Both. My favorite is watching a great game of basketball, then going out and trying to emulate what I just watched. Playing also becomes my personal therapy after a bad day or a Laker loss (much like Jacob).
Shaun Lopez: Don't watch the NBA at all, but still enjoy the college game. I spend my spare time watching soccer these days. It's a more accessible game for those of us not 6'4'' and up. Go Bulldogs!
Kevin Draper: Either/or. I like watching, playing, and reading about basketball in equal measure.
Andrew Snyder: Watching the NBA live > Playing a good quality game of ball > watching NBA on TV. But all three are great.
John Reyes-Nguyen: I love to watch and play basketball and beach volleyball. I prefer to watch football.
Jacob Greenberg: Playing or watching basketball has about the same amount of therapeutic value for me. This is the best sport on two feet (or two wheels; being ableist isn't a good look).